Following the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar by a republican explosion in March 1966, Owen Sheehy Skeffington would later remark in the Seanad that “The man who destroyed the Pillar made Dublin look more like Birmingham and less like an ancient city on the River Liffey, because the presence of the pillar gave Dublin an internationally known appearance.”
Regardless of what one thought of the Pillar as a symbol, its absence was certainly noted. One attempt at replacing Nelson with a more fitting symbol for the city of Dublin was the Pillar Project in 1988. 1988 was the year of Dublin’s official (but not actual!) Millenium, and the Pillar Project was designed to “find a new symbol for Dublin, playing much the same role as the Eiffel Tower does for Paris or the Statue of Liberty for New York”.
The Pillar Project involved 15 different separate teams of artists and architects, proposing different monuments for the site once occupied by Admiral Nelson. Organised jointly by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Sculptors Society of Ireland and the Architectural Association of Ireland, the various entries were put on public display in the General Post Office, where the public could vote for their favourite proposal. Robert Ballagh opened the exhibition to the public, and a ‘Ballot Paper’ option allowed the public to cast their vote.
In the end, the winning entry was the ‘Millenium Arch’, described in The Irish Times as being “twice the height of the GPO”. It received almost 50% of the public votes, and was designed by Michael Kinsella and Daniel McCarthy. Interestingly, in third place was the idea of “rebuilding the Pillar without Nelson”!
The Millenium Arch was never seriously considered for construction sadly, and it was not until 2003 that Nelson would be permanently replaced by the Spire, known officially as the Monument of Light. Costing a rather unbelievable four million Euros, this monument was different from the proposed arch in that it did not seem to enjoy the same popularity among the locals!